• WonderlandDesign

Here comes success…

There is an interesting dilemma for all niche and boutique foods brands which is  “what happens if you are successful!”

It’s a dilemma because so many niche food brands are by any other definition a lifestyle brand. How else do you describe spending every waking hour and all your money developing your new healthy food idea?

This is not to decry the worth of these brands - far from it. Chefs are the ultimate lifestyle foodies and few of us would deny our admiration and fascination with what they do.

I guess the difference is when the lifestyle becomes the business.   It’s hard wired that at some point the business side of things has to win out for the owners attention. (Unless you have a rich benefactors.)

Making it big time…

More often than not a food brands measure of ‘making it’ is being purchased by a ’Big Food’, eg. Nestle, Unilever, ABF etc. (aka: sleeping with the enemy judging by some reports.)

And what always seems to follows is the soul searching and hand-wringing by the more vocal brand fans who are convinced the brand owners have “sold out”.

Remember the mini storm when Innocent ‘sold out’ to Coca-Cola, the same again when Body Shop sold to l’Oreal, which they recently sold on and then when Ben & Jerry sold to Unilever. 

And now Pukka, one of the new wave of organic teas and herbs, has just been brought by… yet again - Unilever!

Here comes the storm…

“We’re delisting… 
Sadly Pukka have sold out to Unilever so we are delisting them. Stock up on your favourites now, when they’re gone they’re gone for good at The Natural Choice. Jo Carpenter, independent retailer”

“Power to influence is gone
. The point isn’t really whether Pukka maintains its own standards and integrity (organic etc) … Pukka products may remain healthy and lovely in every way, but many people will no longer feel able to buy them, because they don’t want to boost the coffers of the vile Unilever. Surely they could have found a better company to sell to?” Catherine Francis

Totally disappointed to hear this news. Will never ever trust Unilver & sickened that Pukka ‘Sold Out’ to them. Bye bye Pukka teas…..☹️ Mary Maguire September 11, 2017 at 1:46 am

When the dust settles… So, Pukka are being kicked out of the local health store and have overnight become the foolish stooges for Unilever? Really? Is it true that only a niche brand, selling through small independent retailers, can ‘do right’ unlike the bad people at Big Food. This is a nonsense surely?

I’m not apologist for Big Food but it disingenuous to lump them into the same box as the Tobacco giants. Big Food is ‘big’ because more often than not it has been around for a century or more, owns it’s own production facilities, operates internationally and employs thousands. That size of operation is never going to be based in a unit located at Park Royal.

In contrast owner managed niche brands tend to operate locally, rarely own their source farms, and often out source their production. And they run by first generation founders  - so no awkward history to look back on.

It takes a decade or more to build and brand, develop a loyal consumer base, and win difficult commercial arguments with retailers. And if the niche brand offers genuinely sharable and valid healthy benefits where is the downside of expanding quickly?  

Of course, that’s impossible to do with out deep pockets, wide influence and the market strength that epitomises Big Food.

Big Food are not angels and there are plenty of occasions when they have failed to cover themselves in glory.

But I believe Big Food needs niche brands in their stable and that’s the only way they can engage with 21st Century consumers. After all, it’s hard these days to hide uncomfortable truths from consumers. Big Food know full well their social context counts for something as valuable as their market share.  

So why not bring in the owners of niche brands whose passion, dedication and knowhow will add to the mix of spread sheets, supply chain automation or research groups.

It all starts Up stream… I was also interested to read the recent Grocer article review a report by Unilever Foundry.

The report says. “… Unilever Foundry predicts innovation theatre will wane as corporates and startups look for more impactful results. As startups and corporates work together more closely, the risk factor decreases and companies will choose meaningful partnerships over quick fixes or instant PR gains.”

Which I read as less reliance on white coats and spread sheets. Instead expect to see ‘Big Food’ spending a litle more time on the streets spotting the next pop up. And then helping it make the big swim down stream to the big time!

I wondered how independent retailer, Jo Carpenter from Natural Choice, who are now delisting Pukka, would react if any of these embryonic brands asked for a listing?

Peter Walker, Director, wonderlandWPA

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